April 04, 2011
With the 2010 NFL season in the books (and a lockout battle now headed to the courts) it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. We've already done scouting reports of the top 40 players on our board, and you can read all the details on the first Shutdown 40 here. For the second Shutdown 40, players 41-80, we have the advantage of combine performances and that much more evaluation material.
Over the next few weeks, we'll also be adding Pro Day data when relevant. But we're always going mostly on game tape; the proper evaluation formula seems to be about 80 percent tape, 20 percent Senior Bowl/combine/Pro Day. If you see what you expect in drills, you go back to the tape to confirm. If what you see in drills surprises you in a positive or negative sense, you go back to the tape to catch where the anomalies may be.
We continue the second Shutdown 40 with Texas defensive lineman Sam Acho. The winner of the 2010 Campbell Trophy for academic excellence, Acho had a tough job in replacing Brian Orakpo(notes) and responded by putting up eight sacks in both his junior and senior seasons. He impressed at the Senior Bowl with his moves as a rush end, but it's been his versatility that has marked his career with the Longhorns. Acho was asked to play the pass and the run off the edge, but he also frequently slipped inside to play the three-tech and five-tech roles, and you'd see him in the A-gap once in a while (an interesting assignment for a 6-foot-2, 262-pound player). Playing all over the line like that deflated Acho's pass-rush tape and numbers to a degree, but he's got the hustle to get in the backfield and create negative plays.
In 49 games at Texas, Acho amassed 21 sacks, 20 quarterback hurries, and 32.5 tackles for loss. He put up 137 total tackles (93 solo), forced eight fumbles, and had eight passes defensed. Acho is seen as a hybrid end-linebacker prospect at the NFL level, but where does game tape put him from a skill set perspective?
Pros: Consistently peels off blockers, keeps his momentum going, and gets to the ballcarrier. Especially good at moving off to one side and flashing into the backfield. Keeps his head on a swivel and is very good at resetting to make tackles in space; he has the discipline to avoid getting faked out. Excellent and underrated closing burst to the quarterback. Sifts quickly through blockers when taking inside loops. Good lateral speed and agility for his size; Acho will chase a play as long as it goes. Can split blocks inside by winning speed battles against guards and pinching through quick gaps.
Cons: Acho can bull back some tackles to make inroad in pass-rush situations, but he needs more moves — both hand moves and foot fakes off the snap — before he'll be a truly effective NFL pass rusher. Wrestles too often with better tackles instead of looking for a way to disrupt. Occasionally goes for the splash play and resorts to ankle tackles; that won't play well in the pros. Tends to disappear against power blockers; he's better off in s flex position or in a wide set where he can see what's in front of him with a less obstructed view.
Conclusion: Michigan's Brandon Graham(notes) was a bit under the radar as a pure pass rusher before we just went off during his Senior Bowl week in a fixed spot — he had played inside a lot in the Wolverines' three-man fronts. I see Acho as a similar player; while he impressed at times with his ability to move around and do different things, he's best suited for a team with a hybrid defense, and needs at outside linebacker and defensive end. Right now, Acho has a good sense of straight-ahead line play; if he develops a few more moves and is in a system that plays to his strengths, he has the potential to be a high-quality edge defender against the run and pass.
NFL Comparison: Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles
More Second Shutdown 40
#41 — Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia | #42 — Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple | #43 — Aaron Williams, DB, Texas | #44 — Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech | #45 — Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA | #46 — Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois | #47 — D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas | #48 -- Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina | #49 — Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy | #50 — Jabbal Sheard, DE, Pitt | #51 — Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa | #52 — Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona | #53 — Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky | #54 — Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada
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